Bizly Wants to Kill the Traditional Booking Process For Small Corporate Events

Mercer Hotel

The Mercer Hotel in New York participates in the Bizly platform. Mercer Hotel

Skift Take: For online meeting space booking platforms like Bizly to be profitable, they have to offer both automated purchase capabilities and chat functionality with live venue staff to satisfy the demands of enterprise clients.

— Greg Oates

Booking a private dining room or hotel meeting space for a small corporate group can sometimes require almost as many back-and-forth emails and lengthy negotiations between the venue and customer as a larger conference.

Let’s say an administrative assistant is tasked with organizing a sales strategy lunch for 10 people in another city. The process might begin with searching multiple hotel and event venue websites, followed by emails to determine rate and availability, and then there’s the whole request-for-proposal (RFP) process to consider different bids.

All of that requires an inordinate amount of time, waiting, delays, stress, and expense to organize a 90-minute meal.

Last year, Bizly launched an iOS app and website providing hotel rooms and event venues that companies can book on demand via an automated platform, which closely resembles the Airbnb user interface and experience. With Bizly, customers search through meeting and event venue listings geographically, using price and various amenity filters to narrow the field of options, just like Airbnb guests do to search for home-shares.

In 2016, Bizly featured 300 hotel venues primarily in New York and California available via instant booking. By the end of this year, the goal is to have 10,000 properties listed in 75 cities, including hotels and non-hotel venues, available via both instant booking and a new customized booking option.

According to Bizly founder Ron Shah, while his customer repeat rate was around 80 percent in 2016, the overall customer volume was less than anticipated, and the cost of new customer acquisition made the economics challenging.

After meeting with his existing corporate clients, who include numerous well-known technology companies, Shah realized he needed to expand Bizly’s product to make it more attractive at the corporate enterprise level, versus for just the individual mid-level employee who needs a fast-turnaround for booking a company gathering.

“During those discussions, we learned very quickly that there are some huge pain points for large companies when it comes to booking small meetings under 100 people, which no one has solved,” said Shah. “There’s billions of dollars happening around small meetings and events, and it’s totally fragmented. For example, small events are being charged on corporate cards, and it’s often going into general T&E (travel and entertainment) expenses, when in reality it’s a small meetings expense.”

Shah explained that most online meeting booking sites, ranging from Cvent to Groupize, are designed primarily for meeting planning departments, but no one else on the corporate buyer side really uses those platforms.

So, first, Bizly needed to evolve and expand to offer the capability to aggregate all of the small meetings spend happening across different company departments, because if that event purchasing is miss-classified, it means it’s not being tracked, measured, and reported appropriately.

And, equally important, the Bizly site needed to be “consumerized” with more contextual content on the front-end, so buyers could use the search engine more effectively, and dummy-proofed on the back-end so suppliers in any department could more easily navigate the corporate dashboard to better leverage the suite of data analytics and reporting processes.

Another challenge for enterprise clients, the lack of a consolidated platform for sourcing, booking, and expensing small meetings online across an entire company ecosytsem also poses numerous compliance problems when accounting departments lack codified systems at scale to ensure competitive venue pricing and honor preferred partner agreements.

On top of all that, the biggest pain point for everyone involved in booking meetings is the despised RFP.

“No one wants to use RFPs for small meetings today; they are universally hated by both suppliers and buyers,” Shah said. “Suppliers generally have less than one percent conversion, and buyers always have to wait endlessly to hear back from them. And then there’s all of this negotiation that has to be processed manually, either via email or phone or whatever. It just sucks for everyone.”

Real Time Messaging For Online Meeting Planning

To address those issues for enterprise clients, Bizly launched an upgraded platform this month with an integrated compliance mechanism and real-time messaging built directly into the booking process.

There’s also now expanded listing content produced by local meeting professionals to provide more context around the overall design vibe, neighborhood environment, and guest experience at each property. And there’s a broader scope of hospitality venues available, beyond just hotels and restaurants, ranging from bowling alleys to vineyards.

Customers with corporate emails can still book meeting and event space instantly on the iOS app like before. The new beta website, meanwhile, is temporarily invitation-only for Bizly to test the new chat functionality and compliance system with its existing corporate clients.

Shah says that about 80 percent of corporate use cases require advance planning to iron out custom meeting requests, even for small events. So one of the big changes on the expanded website is the addition of the “Request to Book” option, which supplements the instant booking capability. It’s designed for customers who want to further customize a booking to cater to attendees with special demands, such as menu preferences, or who require special equipment or have more granular questions.

After choosing a venue and selecting Request to Book, the customer is then placed into a message center where they can chat in real time directly with an event services staff member at the venue. The employee’s working hours and average response time are both visible to the end user.

The venue has the opportunity to upload floor plans, brochures, menus, and anything else to provide as much detail as possible about its listing. For those customers who want additional information before booking, or to negotiate rates and add-ons, they can chat with the venue host in the message center, just like an Airbnb guest can chat with a prospective host.

Therefore, the venue now has a tool to create a custom shopping cart, and the customer can tag their purchase by department, employee, venue, and/or city before forwarding an invoice to procurement.

Corporate executives with administrative access can track all of the conversation between the buyer and supplier, which is important for compliance and transparency reasons. Admins can also pull in as many company employees as necessary into the message center, as well as third parties like a travel management company, for a complete overview of the transaction.

There’s also a shared calendar attached to each order for teams to collaborate and comment on the transaction details. That’s attractive for marketing and finance executives to share any relevant company priorities or client insight specific for any given booking.

To better address compliance thresholds, administrators are also able to set caps for spending. So if a meeting venue or hotel room rate exceeds a pre-determined limit, then the person securing the venue is unable to finalize the booking, and the order is rerouted to the designated manager for approval.

Furthermore, admins can stipulate the need for competitive offers if the rate exceeds the cap, in which case the system requires multiple listings for each order. They can also upload preferred agreements with hospitality companies to further direct the venue search process.

“We’ve built this with a very consumer-centric and content-first approach, because we said, ‘Let’s empower the customer with as much information as possible, and seamless access to talk directly to the venue,’” explained Shah. “Other platforms like Cvent give you a little bit of information, but not much, because they want you to do an RFP. That’s where their business is. Our model is different. We don’t want you to do an RFP. We want to kill the RFP.”

Looking ahead, Bizly is developing a review engine from the ground up, but Shah said that will take some time to populate. He’s also working on integrations with platforms like Eventbrite so customers can create custom event pages from within the system.

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Pilot Shortage Is a Factor In United Moving Away From Regional Jets

United Airlines

Pictured is a United Embraer E175 used by United Express. The airline will be transitioning some regional jet service toward mainline aircraft in domestic, business markets. United Airlines

Skift Take: United is reversing strategy and downplaying regional jets in favor of mainline service on important business routes domestically. The about-face from former CEO Jeff Smisek’s strategy under current execs Munoz and Kirby will have rivals likely redrawing their own plans.

— Dennis Schaal

Just as United Airlines grapples with the fallout of a customer service debacle, the carrier is embarking on a growth spurt—an effort to regain what its president dubs “natural market share” after years of decisions that ceded traffic to rivals.

In the second quarter, United plans to boost domestic growth by as much as 5.5 percent as its mainline flights expand and regional jets disappear on marquee business routes such as Chicago-Washington and Newark-Atlanta. The switch to larger jets for many destinations is meant to show United has a superior product while making it more competitive with domestic rivals. United also wants to command higher shares at its hubs, much the way its competitors do in cities such as Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, Charlotte and Detroit.

“This is not trying to go invade someone’s hub. This is about restoring United to where it should have been,” President Scott Kirby told analysts Tuesday, seeking to assure them that turf battles and fare wars aren’t in the offing.

The timing, of course, is a bit awkward given the ferocious, global denunciation the airline faced last week over that incident in Chicago. The carrier called airport security to an O’Hare gate April 9 when Dr. David Dao declined to relinquish his seat to an airline employee. Dao suffered a concussion, broken nose, and other injuries when security personnel dragged him from the plane. His lawyers said he plans to sue.

United executives said Tuesday they have fielded “appropriate questions and concerns” from corporate customers and are reviewing the assault on the passenger, as well as new policies aimed at preventing a recurrence. Naturally, that review will revive news of the incident and bring fresh attention to it when United makes the report public later this month.

Rare domestic growth

The planned domestic growth at United, while modest relative to low-cost carriers, is rare in this era in which four huge airlines that have carved up most of the U.S. market. American Airlines Group Inc. plans systemwide second-quarter growth of 1 percent, while Delta Air Lines Inc. plans growth of 1 percent or less, and possibly none. Domestically, Southwest Airlines Co. has targeted 2.5 percent growth for the full year.

The United hub growth strategy, begun under Kirby, the former American Airlines president, is a marked reversal from United’s network approach following its 2010 merger with Continental. Under former CEO Jeff Smisek, the airline turned to regional flying and shrank domestically in response to weak financial returns relative to the industry.

“United did a lot of cumulative actions in the past three or four years which caused it to lose its natural share and which hurt its financials,” Kirby said to the analysts, adding: “And you guys used to get on this earnings call and beat them up.” Wall Street’s proposed solution of cutting capacity just made things worse, he said.

The new strategy is also driven by the tight supply of pilots in the regional jet industry. “Everyone knows that United never should have been flying regional jets in markets like Chicago to Washington National or New York to Atlanta,” Kirby said.

He cited United’s 1,200 daily seats on six mainline flights between Atlanta and Newark, restored from the 300 it flew with 50-seat regional jets on the route for several years. Amid United’s prior downsizing, Delta retained its 1,800 daily seats on a dozen mainline flights between those cities, Kirby said, helping that airline to boost the 60 percent market share it enjoyed as United’s 40 percent share slipped. It is now aiming to return to the same “natural” level as before.

Ticked off

Investors remain skeptical that United’s new flying will work in tandem with higher profits—United Continental Holdings Inc. shares dropped 4 percent Tuesday. Also unclear: Will the rest of the industry stand pat as United builds greater market share, even if it’s focused on the carrier’s own hubs?

“There is no natural share, everything is market share,” said George Ferguson, an aerospace and defense analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “When you’re expanding, you’re trying to take market share. Delta is going to be ticked.” He said United is “talking right at business travel and when you’re talking about business travel, there’s going to be a fight to keep it.”

Cowen & Co. analyst Helane Becker echoed that sentiment in a client note Tuesday: “So far there hasn’t been a competitive response, but these are high-value business travelers we are speaking about. We do not believe this strategy will be ignored by the other airlines.”

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Justin Bachman from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Nearly Half of UNESCO Sites Don’t Have Plans to Manage Overtourism Challenges

John Seb Barber  / Flickr

Many UNESCO sites lack an extensive tourism management plan. Pictured are tourists taking photos at Iguazu National Park in Argentina. John Seb Barber / Flickr

Skift Take: UNESCO sites — of all places — should be the destinations taking leadership roles in tourism management planning as they’re often the first place many tourists think about when deciding what to do on a trip. But data show that’s far from reality for a variety of political and economic reasons.

— Dan Peltier

Exploring natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef or Yellowstone National Park in the United States is a top reason why many travelers choose to visit destinations, as unique sites like these collectively receive tens of millions of visitors each year.

A recent study, however, found that many of these sites don’t have a tourism management plan in place and aren’t doing enough to prevent negative impacts from mass tourism.

Some 105 sites (46 percent) of the 229 natural UNESCO sites, many of which are national parks or wildlife reserves, for example, have no active tourism management plan, according to researchers at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia who were commissioned by UNESCO to analyze the level of tourism planning across the world’s natural UNESCO sites.

Tourism management plans outline sustainable tourism development goals such as monitoring the number of visitor arrivals and identifying specific areas zoned for tourists that are the foundation of the UNESCO organization. But only 11 of these natural UNESCO sites have a dedicated tourism management plan that isn’t integrated with a larger management plan for the site.

Including tourism planning as one of many parts in a larger management plan is more common than dedicated tourism plans for UNESCO sites. Some 84 sites include tourism planning as part of their overall management plan but don’t have a dedicated strategy specifically for tourism.

China, for example, has 12 natural UNESCO sites but only nine have extensive tourism management plans. “In terms of years since listing, newer or more recently inscribed World Heritage sites were more likely to have extensive planning or at least moderate tourism planning, compared with sites that had been listed a very long time ago,” the study states. “Possibly this reflects the more recent nature of the tourism growth phenomenon or the greater expectations associated with tourism planning in more recent years.”

The researchers used UNESCO’s list of 229 natural World Heritage Sites to search the Internet for their tourism management plans — if they even exist. The analysis doesn’t account for UNESCO sites without an online presence or those that researchers weren’t able to find through Google searches.

Cultural sites, such as Vatican City or the Pyramids of Giza, weren’t part of the analysis and the number of UNESCO sites with tourism management plans would likely be higher if those sites were included in the study.

Some 18 sites have tourism management plans that have expired, such as in Australia where three of its 16 natural UNESCO sites have outdated plans. “Decades of academic research and practical experience have shown that the relationship between tourism and protected areas is complex, partly because of the often conflicting economic focus of tourism and the conservation priorities of protected areas stakeholders,” the study states.

Indeed, many of these natural UNESCO sites — and the others not part of this study — are the causes of what Skift considers as overtourism. Millions of tourists each year visit Australia, Brazil and Canada, for example, for their natural UNESCO sites and while some of these sites may not currently suffer from too many tourists they contribute to the a city or region’s overall visitation.

The lack of tourism planning at many UNESCO sites potentially puts these attractions and tourism boards and local tourism officials on different footing and also impacts the lives of residents and wildlife who live in surrounding areas.

UNESCO’s Tourism Planning Problem

Since it was created more than 70 years ago, UNESCO has become more aggressive with encouraging sites to adopt tourism management plans but this wasn’t always the norm. “Despite the early focus on recreation and enjoyment of nature by people, the UNESCO World Heritage Convention of 1972 makes only a single mention of tourism, namely in Article 11.4,” the study states.

“This article refers to properties on the ‘List of World Heritage in Danger,’ whereby tourism is seen as a risk factor that threatens both natural and cultural heritage, for example as a result of overuse and physical damage.”

Sites also have to report their progress and tourism goals to UNESCO every six years and the study argues reporting should be more frequent. UNESCO designates sites as World Heritage Sites based on tourism management criteria that sites already have in place although planning often becomes less prioritized as time passes, the study found.

Only 65 natural sites (28 percent) have an extensive and up-to-date level of tourism planning. “The mere existence of tourism in planning documents does not guarantee that the level of planning is sufficient,” the study states. “The tourism management strategies were assessed with regards to their level of detail.”

Researchers considered management plans with fewer than two pages of text dedicated to tourism planning as moderate while those with less than a page are considered minimal.

The Americas UNESCO Sites Lead in Tourism Planning

North and South America sites’ combined have the most extensive tourism management plans but that could simply be a matter of geography as Europe has more cultural sites than natural sites, for example, though 20 percent of European sites have extensive plans.

About 28 percent of sites in South America have extensive tourism management plans and nine percent of sites in North America.

Sites in less developed countries, based on the United Nation’s Human Development Index, have high rates for measuring visitation and extensive tourism planning though they’re less likely to refer to zoning than developed countries and less likely to monitor visitation.

North American sites are particularly likely to survey visitors and their perceptions and also use indicators such as how much garbage tourists leave to monitor impact.

Where UNESCO Sites succeed and Come up Short With Tourism Planning

The charts below represent a 46-site cross-section of the 229 sites part of the study. The 46 sites represent those that have websites in English or Spanish (analysis of websites in other languages was done using Google Translate) that could be more easily analyzed and understood without possible mistranslations.

Percentages expressed below and in the charts only account for these 46 sites rather than all 229 sites part of the study.

Chart 1:  The study defines tracking visitor trends as determining visitor numbers, visitation patterns and visitor demographics over multiple years. Only 25 sites (53 percent), cover visitor trends in their tourism management plans. The study found rates of discussing visitor trends increase as the level of country development decreases.

Natural UNESCO Sites Where Tracking Visitor Trends is Part of Tourism Management Plan % Tracked
Asia 60%
Africa 70%
Europe 55%
North America 75%
Pacific 25%
South America 55%

 

Chart 2: More sites track visitation separately rather than track it as part of visitor trends. Some 36 sites’ tourism management strategies include tracking visitation with similar rates of inclusion across all country development levels and continents.

Natural UNESCO Sites Where Tourist Visitation is Tracked % Tracked
Asia 60%
Africa 85%
Europe 65%
North America 95%
Pacific 65%
South America 90%

 

Chart 3: Some 89 percent of these sites monitor the positive and negative impacts of tourism but only 21 sites (47 percent) provide specific indicators to monitor. Monitoring is done using multiple methods including entry fees and permits, gathering data on visitor days and nights (24%) and using tour company data.

Natural UNESCO Sites Where Tourism Impact is Monitored % Tracked
Asia 50%
Africa 90%
Europe 75%
North America 80%
Pacific 80%
South America 70%

 

Chart 4: Forty sites (87%) discuss zoning within their tourism management strategy. The approaches range from having a ‘no go’ tourist zone to having extensive zoning plans with various levels of visitor use and access. Of the six sites that do not cover zoning, all are located in Europe or the UK. The analysis also showed that zoning as a management tool is more prevalent in countries in which tourism contributes a higher percentage of GDP.

Natural UNESCO Sites Where Tourism Planning Includes Specific Tourist Zones % Tracked
Asia 100%
Africa 100%
Europe 30%
North America 100%
Pacific 100%
South America 100%

 

Source: Griffith University

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How Extended Stay Hotels Are Pivoting Towards a New Generation of Travelers

Marriott International

A rendering of one of the communal rooms being piloted at Marriott’s Element extended stay hotel brand. Marriott and other extended stay hotel operators are trying to add more communal, co-living-like features to their properties. Marriott International

Skift Take: The extended stay portion of the lodging business continues to see strong demand. But are extended stay brands doing enough to keep up with travelers’ evolving tastes and needs? And what about Airbnb?

— Deanna Ting

Extended stay hotels are a particularly bright spot in an otherwise steady hotel industry, especially in the U.S.

These properties, often distinguished by having a kitchenette in each room and taking reservations, instead of requiring a lease, saw room night demand go up 5.4 percent in 2016 compared to 2015, according to a U.S. Extended Stay Lodging Market 2017 report from The Highland Group.

That same report found occupancy for extended stay hotels remains steady at just over 75 percent. To date, there are about 40,000 extended stay properties in the U.S. alone and that number will continue to grow: rooms under construction for this category are up 16 percent compared to 2015, a record high.

“Demand is at a record high,” said Mark Skinner, partner at The Highland Group. “More people are staying at extended stay hotels in the U.S. today than there were as ever before but what’s also true of the overall hotel industry is that these extended stay hotels are seeing record revenues. Just to put a number it’s probably $11 billion in 2016, not including corporate apartments which would be $3 billion. For 2015, room revenue for extended stay hotels was close to $10 billion.”

The ways in which customers are using extended stay hotels are also expanding. What was traditionally thought of as something specifically geared toward business travelers working on long projects or perhaps relocating has now become a lodging option for people staying four days or less.

“Extended stay is defined by five days by the industry, and I have looked hard to find a week with only five days in it,” said Jack DeBoer, the founder of Residence Inn, Summerfield Suites, and Candlewood Suites, and now CEO of WaterWalk Hotel Apartments. “I think they’ve [the industry] has abominated it [the extended stay category of lodging] from what it was originally intended to be.”

Mark Mahoney, executive vice president of sales for Extended Stay America, said he’s also seen the length of stay for extended stay hotel guests become shorter and shorter as well. “The overall volume in the number of stays we experience from relocations and extended stay has been increasing, but the actual length of stay is decreasing. I think that evolution has been a result of visibility and accessibility of the segment.”

It’s clear there’s certainly demand among guests for these types of properties, whether for shorter or longer stays, business or leisure, and hotel owners and developers are responding accordingly. In some cases, they’re experimenting with new room models and features. In others, they’re extending their scope beyond their usual suburban locales.

But will this be enough to position this product against the increasing popularity of players like HomeAway, VRBO, and Airbnb? Whether extended stay can take share away from traditional vacation rentals or platforms like Airbnb that are flexible enough to offer both short-term and longer-term rentals remains to be seen.

Here’s a look at what a few extended stay brands are doing to position themselves for the next generation of travelers.

Marriott’s Communal Approach to Extended Stay

Earlier this year, at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit, Marriott International unveiled plans to debut a new room prototype for its newly acquired Element extended stay hotel brand. The new room layout, which will be in an unspecified number of Element properties going forward, involves four guest rooms that surround a shared communal space that includes a kitchen, dining area, and living room area. In short, it’s an updated take on dorm living, or a reinterpretation of co-living concepts that have been emerging in spaces like WeLive and others.

“We’re seeing the trend of much more of a sense of community that people are looking for when they travel,” said Toni Stoeckl, VP of lifestyle brands for Marriott International. “They like being with like-minded people and traveling with them or alongside them. The sense of community is much more alive now than it ever has been in the travel arena, and it’s particularly elevated in extended stay because you are spending a lot more time in that hotel than you would in other hotels.”

Stoeckl said the idea for the new communal room layout is ideal for groups traveling together, such a group of girlfriends or a group of consultants. “You want a private room, but you also want space that the group can share together,” he explained.

Catering to group travel is something alternative accommodations players like Airbnb, HomeAway, and VRBO have been doing for some years, but leveraging group-friendly spaces like the communal rooms can give extended stay properties a bit more of a competitive edge.

“That concept has been around for a long time,” said Skinner, “but by and large it’s been absent from extended stay hotels. Clearly there’s a demand for it and there would be certain types of travelers who would like that in an extended stay environment. I’m thinking, especially, of youth sports or teams that need multiple occupancy per room and want to have a kitchen with the ability to store fairly significant quantities of food and drinks. It’s also great for families and other types of groups.”

The new room layout also gives hotel owners some flexibility in how they use or sell those rooms, as well. “If it’s not being sold as a bundle, you can book the individual room and have access to this semi-private space to get to know new people,” Stoeckl said. “And if you don’t, you just don’t use it. It’s creating a sense of community and lets individual travelers also be alone together.”

DeBoer, however, is very skeptical that these types of room formats “will have any impact on the industry at all.”

“I’m not holding my breath that Airbnb or dorm-like connections will have any impact on the industry at all,” he said. “They are great for writing articles. I think they are cute ideas. They don’t have anything to do with the basic business. You have to deliver cleanliness and property price and then monkey around with owner ego trips.”

WaterWalk Apartments’ Straightforward Approach to Co-Living

As much as DeBoer himself bemoans newfangled approaches to extended stay like Marriott’s new communal rooms at Element, he hasn’t stopped trying to reinvent or adapt the space himself, however. His WaterWalk Hotel Apartments in Wichita, Kansas, for example, serve as a particularly interesting example of a mixed-use extended stay property that’s more in line with co-living than DeBoer would probably ever admit, albeit minus the Millennial-friendly coworking spaces or artisanal coffee service.

WaterWalk first opened in 2014 and it consists of an equal number of apartment units and an equal number of extended stay hotel units, all in the same complex.

DeBoer is probably the last person to choose to describe WaterWalk as a “co-living” concept but in many ways it serves as a model for some of the newer co-living spaces we’ve seen pop up as of late: places where both transient residents and more permanent residents co-exist together and enjoy shared programming and amenities. Whether you’re an apartment resident or an extended stay guest, and no matter how many days your length of stay, everything (meaning amenities, utilities, etc.) is “all-inclusive” and there’s certainly a sort of community feel to the whole complex.

DeBoer’s motivation for launching WaterWalk, which will eventually expand to a total of 12 locations throughout the U.S. was purely from a business perspective, however.

“It’s a very profitable business model,” he said. “The advantage is that you only have 75 apartments and 75 extended stay units. Markets will absorb smaller numbers so if you’re going to build a 400-unit apartment project, you should pay a lot of attention to the market.”

“What WaterWalk has done is come in and bridged that gap between a 3-night minimum and an extended stay hotel which will have no minimum stay,” said Skinner. “There was an unfilled gap there if you like. The average length of stay in a furnished corporate apartment is 90 days. For extended stay is three to four days now. Something in between is being met by WaterWalk and by Airbnb coming into the market, and they’ve positioned the product to be more residential than it was before.”

Unlike some of the newer WeLives, Commons, or Commonspaces and other co-living communities of the world, however, DeBoer is content to focus on cities like Wichita, Indianapolis, Tulsa, San Antonio, and Louisville instead.

“I don’t build in big cities,” he said. “That’s where Airbnb really works. I mean, New York, Los Angeles and all these big cities — Airbnb works there because there’s no alternative to it. The zoning for residential multi-family zoning has a lot of restrictions like 30-day minimums. The reason corporate lodging like WaterWalk works in smaller cities is because there’s no alternative to it. But just doing corporate housing by itself won’t guarantee you make any money. That’s why we’ve put all three together so it’s a different animal.”

He said he and his team are currently “toying” with the idea of bringing the WaterWalk extended stay concept to larger cities but that it’s still “on the back burner.”

Mahoney said that having an urban presence is becoming more and more in demand in the extended stay space as well. “We are seeing younger travelers really appreciating that and looking more for that — to being in a city center location. It comes down to things like approximate location to public transportation, things they can walk to, etc. We at Extended Stay America don’t have a lot of presence in urban markets but that urban shift is continuing to move throughout the industry.”

Airbnb’s Future Plans for This Space

And what of Airbnb? Last year, Airbnb formally introduced its Friendly Buildings Program, which incentivizes owners and developers of multi-family housing complexes to allow some of their units to be listed on Airbnb, whether they do it themselves (ostensibly selecting certain units solely for Airbnb use) or if they allow their renters to do so on a part-time basis.

It’s an interesting program that both extends and olive branch to landlords while also ensuring Airbnb has a steady business in multi-family housing complexes that well, might start to represent their own hybrids of co-living hotels in some way.

Kevin Choquette, founder of Fident Capital, a real estate development financier, said he thinks Airbnb was prompted to debut its Friendly Buildings Program because “There was so much blowback from landlords who were frustrated by fact that tenants were subleasing leasehold interests. They recognized potential for damage to the brand and the opportunity for market expansion.” He added, “Let’s see what they can do to extend the olive brand and make this a win.”

Choquette said that if Airbnb can work with developers to designate or even design units that are “Airbnb-ready” or “Airbnb-friendly” and “figure out what kind of economics, control, and transparency owners would need to open up more rooms to the Airbnb platform” this could be a sort of win-win situation for both parties involved.

Extended Stay America’s Mahoney, for one, also thinks the Friendly Buildings Program could be successful. “We actually tried to do something similar two years ago,” he added.

“I was not aware Airbnb had done this but it doesn’t surprise me,” Skinner said. “There’s been a big increase in multi-family housing construction and there are a number of markets around the country which are entering into an oversupply area. When that happens, the apartment/community owner will look for additional sources of revenue outside of their traditional renter.”

And beyond the Friendly Buildings Program, Airbnb is also dabbling in longer-term sublets which also make it a tempting alternative for people who might otherwise be shopping for an extended stay accommodation.

Extended Stay Is Already Evolving and Will Continue to Do So

Whatever does eventually happen in this space, it’s clear that many extended stay operators are paying close attention to Airbnb and the like, and they’re transforming the experiences they can offer in the process.

That much is clear at places like ROOST Apartment Hotel, which has two locations in Philadelphia, which emphasizes a strong sense of community for its guests, many of whom are relocating or staying for long work projects.

“We asked ourselves, ‘What can we do to mitigate that sense of isolation and through our facilities and our team, establish this sense of place?,’” ROOST Co-Founder Randall Cook said. “We want the residence lounge to be a place where guests can gather regularly and we want them to be able to interact with the team to feel connected to the city at large.” Additionally, ROOST has an app for guests, as well as programming related to coffee and music.

And like Element, Extended Stay America is also investing in new models that emphasize more communal living spaces for its guests.

As this sector of lodging continues to grow and, likewise, so does the popularity and demand for homesharing on platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway, we can expect to see extended stay becoming more residential and more communal, too.

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Did the Trivago Guy Just Lose His TV Gig?

Trivago

Move over Trivago Guy. A couple of Trivago Gals, including Australian actress Gabrielle Miller, have been touting the hotel search engine on U.S. TV. Trivago

Skift Take: Did the U.S. Trivago Guy just get William Shatnered? Like Shatner for Priceline.com, actor Tim Williams, who had become omnipresent on TV in the U.S. for Trivago, has hardly been seen over the last couple of weeks. It’s good for brands to freshen things up and female empowerment ads are trending.

— Dennis Schaal

Love him or hate him, find him sexy or creepy, actor Tim Williams — who has been the pitchman for Trivago on U.S. TV — has saturated the airwaves over the past three years. But the Trivago Guy apparently has been phased out over the last couple of weeks in favor of the Trivago Gal.

Or two Trivago Gals, actually. (The company sometimes refers to the talent as Mr. or Mrs. Trivago.)

Even actor William Shatner, the veteran pitchman for rival Priceline.com as The Negotiator, got killed off, brought back, and repurposed for voice-overs in TV commercials.

Actress Gabrielle Miller, who was born in Australia, premiered on U.S. TV in a few Trivago commercials at the beginning of April. But her “Ideal Hotel for the Best Rate” ad [embedded below] really popped in its national airings, says Jason Damata, a spokesman for advertising analytics firm iSpot.tv. She’s also appeared in Trivago ads in the UK and Ireland.

Since the beginning of April, Miller’s ad “has already generated the highest digital response rate  (searches, social actions expressly linked to an ad airing) to date of any [of Trivago’s] English language creative,” Damata said. “That means of the 29 unique ads Trivago has run this year, it is among the top three in terms of bang for the buck.”

Trivago has allocated about $305,000 for national airings of the ad in the U.S. since its debut April 4, according to iSpot.tv estimates.

Tech companies in travel and outside the sector are generally known for fostering a test-and-learn culture, and that certainly extends to the TV advertising efforts of Trivago, which directed 87 percent of its revenue last year toward marketing.

Asked to explain the apparent fading out of the Trivago Guy commercials in the U.S., Trivago spokeswoman Bianca Delbao said: “As I’m sure you already know, Trivago is, of course, a test-driven company. Though we don’t publicly disclose our advertising strategy.”

Trivago usually has more than 25 commercials running at any given time in the U.S. and has run 29 unique ads since the beginning of the year.

The company is also testing commercials, such as “Loads of Research” [embedded below] and “Before You Book” in the U.S. market, featuring a second Trivago Gal, Danish actress Emma Nok Leth. She has also appeared in Trivago commercials in France.

Did TV Viewers Get Sick of the Trivago Guy?

Since Trivago is constantly running tests of its TV advertising, we can’t be certain that the Trivago Guy’s demise is permanent. Delbao of Trivago wouldn’t answer the question about his fate in its commercials and actor Williams didn’t respond to a request for comment.

So why the sudden switch? Were TV viewers getting sick of the Trivago Guy given how often his face interrupted ABC or MSNBC broadcasts? The character’s ads, when they first appeared in 2014, seemed to have a polarizing effect on viewers. Some derided his open collar, belt-less low-hanging pants and scruffy look while others saw him as irresistible. His ads were effective though. “They put billions of impressions on that guy in the last year,” Damata said.

The metrics don’t show the Trivago Guy’s ads “slagging,” Damata said, and it’s good for brands to alternate frontmen — or frontwomen — from time to time.

“There’s no hard evidence that shows any real slide in terms of attention,” Damata said.

In general, advertisers are seeing good traction with “female empowerment ads,” he said, adding that Trivago’s advertisements this year are hitting more of a female audience (53 percent female versus 47 percent male).

Actually, there has been more than one Trivago Guy in the U.S.: Actor Gonzalo Peña has served as the Trivago pitchman in Latin America and in Spanish-language commercials in the U.S. for the last couple of years. See “Entra a Trivago” [embedded below].

“The Spanish language ads do very well for Trivago when it comes to driving views, searches and social,” says Damata of iSpot.tv.

Regardless of the actors in front of the camera, this is a high-stakes game for Trivago and competitors. In the last two weeks alone, Trivago spent some $8.8 million on U.S. TV advertising, iSpot.tv estimates.

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Switzerland Tourism Fights Rivals for Chinese Travelers With New Focus

My Switzerland

A stay at the Kulmhotel Gornergrat in Zermatt, Switzerland comes with great views of the Matterhorn. Switzerland Tourism is working to attract Chinese tourists to its winter destinations. My Switzerland

Skift Take: Switzerland Tourism is employing “precision marketing” as the number of Chinese individual travelers rose last year while overall arrivals dropped. Tactics aim to be as precise as a Swiss watch; other destinations it competes with for longhaul Chinese travelers, including the U.S., Canada and New Zealand, should take note.

— Raini Hamdi


Editor’s Note:
Skift’s Gateway series broadens our news coverage geographically with first-hand, original stories from correspondents embedded in cities around ravhe world.

We feature regular reports from Beijing, China; Capetown, South Africa, and Singapore. Gateway Beijing and Gateway Singapore, for example, signify that the reporters are writing from those cities although their coverage of the business of travel will meander to other locales in their regions. Read about the series here, and check out all the stories in the series here.

Rather than fret over a devastating 16 per cent drop in China (including Hong Kong) overnights last year, which they believe is temporary, the Swiss are pointing to the fact that travel by individual Chinese, as opposed to group travel, is rising.

It’s a trend the Swiss have been waiting for.

While travelers from China have grown to be Switzerland’s fifth largest market, with a record 1.52 million overnights in 2015, much of that is low-yield tour groups series taking the traditional route of Italy-Switzerland-France, and largely benefiting Swiss destinations such as Lucerne and Interlaken.

Terror attacks in European hot spots last year, along with low prices in new destinations in eastern, northern and southwestern Europe, saw this business decline. But while there were fewer camera-clickers, there was a noticeable rise in lifestyle-seekers for Switzerland.

Sales of the Swiss Travel Pass, which gives visitors unlimited travel on rail, bus, boat and tram in the Swiss Travel System network, rose 4.7 per cent last year. Other data, from Swiss Quality Hotels, which represents 60 properties in 40 locations throughout Switzerland, show a 144.5 per cent jump in the number of individual travelers from China in the first two months of 2017 compared with the same period in 2016.

Last-minute bookings were surging. About 12 per cent of their bookings were done on the same day of arrival; 20 per cent were within five days of arrival.

“This is an indication that Chinese travelers who have a Schengen visa are becoming more independent, spontaneous and go as they please,” said director of sales and marketing Amjad Nashashibi. “Most probably, such last-minute bookings are done on the mobile while travelling. They also spent more per overnight compared with the same period last year.

“Moreover, they stayed in average about two overnights per destination. We at Swiss Quality Hotels are observing a shift. Chinese travelers are visiting different regions in Switzerland rather than just ticking off the ‘must see’ landmarks.”

Time for some Swiss precision

The shift has led to Switzerland Tourism to switch gears from generic to what its director of China and Asia-Pacific, Simon Bosshart, describes as “precision marketing.”

We interviewed Bosshart and other Swiss tourism players during their recent roadshow in Singapore.

The China market is changing fast, he says. Even traditional tour operators, not just boutique and individual traveler operators, are setting up new teams or brands to service a new segment of travelers. “On the other hand, OTAs (online travel agencies) in China are enticing the young generation of Chinese travelers with new technology and distribution while buying directly from destinations to feed their independent clients,” says Bosshart.

Switzerland Tourism therefore wants to direct its focus less on groups and more on fostering specific travel interests for Chinese travelers such as summer outdoor lovers (hikers, bikers), winter guests (snow sports enthusiasts or simply snow lovers), culture buffs, and meeting and incentive groups.

It will also measure results differently. For example, it will judge the business created by travel trade partners more on the development of new products than number of arrivals. “We intend to trigger 920,000 Chinese overnights from 40 new products through cooperating with tour operators throughout China,” says Bosshart.

Similarly, it will measure its media success not just by large circulation numbers but coverage of specific travel interests. It aims to influence 900 media articles all over China, 140 of them on specific interests. Around 100 journalists from China, including bloggers, will be hosted on media trips.

Laying out the red carpet for Chinese

Back home, products are being made friendly to Chinese guests. Switzerland Tourism has partnered with Chinese driver-guide platform HiGuides to train and certify HiGuides in Switzerland to escort guests along the Grand Tour of Switzerland, which whisks clients through the country’s most beautiful regions at their own time, preference and pace. The service starts in the spring.

Fourteen ski schools in Switzerland are offering ski lessons in Chinese. Switzerland Tourism has also come up with a new one-stop shop offer that includes ski gear rental (skis, boots, helmet, goggle, gloves and clothes), ski tickets and ski lessons (two to four hours).

The development of the winter market is especially crucial. Switzerland Tourism is convinced China will become the world’s largest winter sports market. Present reality also bites: Its traditional markets Germany, Italy and France, which have been filling up all the rooms in peak winter season, are all in decline because there’s less money, either due to their weaker economies or the higher Swiss franc.

There’s likely to be more Chinese faces than Japanese in one of Switzerland’s famous winter destinations, Zermatt, whose car-free village and the Matterhorn draw thousands of Japanese each year yet still few Chinese.

Zermatt Bergbahnen, which is responsible for the mountain lifts in Zermatt and the surrounding areas, has just signed on three Chinese employees in Beijing, its first move to expand distribution in China, both through online platforms and tour operators. One of the representatives will be solely in charge of reaching out to the “wealthy” guests through connections with China’s ski associations and luxury market.

Zermatt Bergbahnen’s head of markets, Hansjuerg Michel, says data show there are already around 15 million skiers in China. “I am convinced they want to ski in a European resort and even if just every 10, 100 or 1,000 of them decides to visit Europe once, we will already have a nice number of Chinese skiing guests in Europe and hopefully some of them as well in Zermatt,” he says.

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Google Earth Revamps to Focus on Exploration and Entertainment

Anick Jesdanun  / Associated Press

Sean Askay, right, engineering manager with Google Earth, demonstrates features on Google Earth. Google Earth is getting a revival, with the mapping service becoming more of a tool for adventure and exploration. Anick Jesdanun / Associated Press

Skift Take: It’s not exactly virtual reality or augmented reality, but this interactive approach could be used as another platform for destinations looking to promote themselves to would-be visitors.

— Deanna Ting

Google Earth is getting a revival, with the 3-D mapping service becoming more of a tool for adventure and exploration.

A central feature in the new Google Earth is Voyager. Google has partnered with such groups as the BBC, NASA and the producers of “Sesame Street” to mix in video clips, photos and text narratives. The Jane Goodall Institute, for instance, lets you journey to spots in Tanzania that inspired the chimpanzee expert.

Before Google Maps brought in real-world imagery, Google Earth was the place to go to for satellite views and 3-D images stitched together from aerial fly-bys. A software download was required, limiting its use.

With the update, Google Earth now works on desktop browsers. Google has a mobile app for Android but not iPhones or iPads yet.

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U.S. May Tighten Visa Waiver Program, Homeland Security Chief Says

Glenn Fawcett  / U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Officers of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Field Operations monitor air traffic and trade activities at the National Targeting Center. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly wants to tighten border security. Glenn Fawcett / U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Skift Take: Terrorism is a real concern, but if the U.S. rolls back the visa waiver program, it could have major repercussions for the tourism industry. And that’s a big potential problem.

— Brian Sumers

The U.S. should review a visa waiver program that gives European visitors easier access into the country as foreign fighters with Islamic State return to Europe and attempt to travel to the U.S., Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said.

The expected military defeat of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria will decentralize the threat from the terrorist group and put the U.S. at greater risk, as militants with citizenship in Europe return home and plot further attacks, Kelly said in a speech Tuesday in Washington. It’s a concern shared by European allies, Kelly said, as large numbers of fighters are already going back.

“Most of those countries are visa waiver countries,” Kelly said at the event organized by George Washington University. “We have to start looking very hard at that program — not eliminating it and not doing anything excessive — but look very hard at that program and say, ‘What do we need to do?”’

Countries in the visa waiver program include Belgium, Spain, France, the U.K., Italy and Germany as well as non-European nations such as Australia, South Korea, Singapore, Chile and Japan. People from the visa countries aren’t eligible if they also hold dual citizenship from Iraq, Iran, Syria and Sudan.

Laptop Ban

Any changes to the program, which lets most citizens or nationals of select countries travel to the U.S. for tourism or business for up to 90 days without first obtaining a visa, would be the latest effort by the Trump administration to tighten border security. The administration last month issued new rules barring laptops and other electronic devices in carry-on luggage from eight Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Kelly said his department “will likely expand” on such restrictions.

While foreign fighters with Islamic State may initially return to their home countries, Kelly said their “real intent” is to travel to the U.S., which is “the Super Bowl in terms of terrorists.”

“They want to get here, they want to do us harm,” he said. “That’s my concern now that we’re winning in Iraq and soon to win in Syria, that those fighters go back to their homes in Europe and then very possibly make the trip to the United States.”

Syrian Strike

Turning to Syria, the retired Marine Corps general said he was among the Cabinet members who helped President Donald Trump make the decision to launch a cruise missile strike against an airbase in the country this month after accusing President Bashar al-Assad of carrying out a chemical attack against civilians.

“He was very open to anyone at the table talking and giving their idea” in the White House situation room, Kelly said. “There was give-and-take, and he took all of that in. He made exactly the right decision.”

Kelly acknowledged that he’s been told his department, which includes everything from the Coast Guard to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has the “worst morale” in the federal government, adding that his employees have been used as “political pawns.” But he said he and the administration have “got their back.”

He criticized public officials for often ridiculing and insulting DHS staff.

“If lawmakers do not like the laws that we enforce, that we are charged to enforce, that we are sworn to enforce — then they should have the courage and the skill to change those laws,” Kelly said. “Otherwise they should shut up and support the men and women on the front lines.”

On reports of people being held up at airports for secondary screening or being refused entry into the U.S., Kelly said “believe me, it’s not because of their skin color” or where they’re from, or because of their religion. Instead, he said it’s because an indicator or tip, such as something they said or the content on their mobile phone, prompted officials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to make that decision.

“I can’t tell you the number of phone calls I get from members of Congress telling me about how we’re refusing someone’s entry at LAX or at JFK because they’re Muslim or because they’re Arab,” Kelly said, referring to international airports in Los Angeles and New York. “It’s absolutely not true.”

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Nafeesa Syeed from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Opinion: What We Hate About Airlines Actually Keeps Fares Low

United Airlines

United Airlines, like most carriers, overbooks flights because it is the most efficient way to run an airline business. United Airlines

Skift Take: This column makes excellent points. Airlines overbook flights because the strategy allows them to maximize revenue from each flight. That’s good for investors, yes. But it also, over time, leads to lower ticket prices. In short — passengers benefit from overbooking and other policies that seem to hurt travelers, even they do not know it.

— Brian Sumers

Did you see that passenger getting hauled off the United flight?

No, I spent the last week hiding under a rock for tax reasons.

Do you really need to be sarcastic?

Need, no. Enjoy, yes. Next question.

What do you think about it?

United messed up, obviously.

I know! How dare they kick off paying passengers to make way for their employees? It’s like they think the airline operates for their convenience instead of the customers, isn’t it?

No, not exactly. Actually, they kicked people off the plane so that they wouldn’t have to cancel an entire flight the next day. The employees they boarded were the crew for that plane.

I think you’re just making excuses. I read that airlines sell more seats than they have on flights, just to make more money out of them. That pretty clearly shows they don’t care about their passengers, doesn’t it?

As far as I can tell, United Flight 3411 wasn’t oversold; it was just full, meaning that when the airline needed to board a crew, they had to remove passengers. But to answer your question anyway, I assume that like most companies, United Continental Holdings Inc. cares about its passengers, at least to the extent of keeping them from switching to another airline. They don’t oversell flights because they don’t care; they oversell flights because we want them to.

Excuse me? I most certainly don’t.

I don’t know about you, personally, since I just made you up for the purposes of this column, and I haven’t had time to really dig into your secret dreams and hidden inner motivations. But collectively, we get the airlines we want, which is to say, the airlines we are willing to pay for.

That is our “revealed preference” — what economists call “the things people actually do, rather than what they say.” Customers prefer ultra-cheap air travel. The best way to make the tickets cheaper is to put more people in an airplane.

But that’s because there’s no point in shopping. The major airlines are all terrible.

Okay, but major airlines and startups have experimented with better service — more legroom and wider seats, more amenities. This meant carrying fewer passengers. It turned out people wouldn’t consistently pay those higher prices; despite heavily advertising their better amenities, the airlines in question generally ended up going out of business, or switching to the “cattle class” service we all know and hate.

The market has spoken pretty loudly; it’s just that we don’t like what it’s saying.

Oh, come on, isn’t this just that old right-wing cliché that markets always produce the best outcome? People acting in their own personal self-interest can often make everyone worse off, including themselves.

You’re referring to a collective action problem. That’s a problem where the rational thing to do on an individual level will make us all collectively worse off. You can think of a fishery from which the rational thing for each individual fisher to do is catch as many fish as you can … until the whole fishery collapses, and no one catches any fish.

Collective action problems certainly exist, and that’s one reason we have government. But a collective action problem is not just “something that makes a minority unhappy”; no system makes every single person better off. A true collective action problem is one in which collectively restraining destructive individual instincts can make everyone — or at least, a substantial majority of people — better off.

In the airline market, I see no evidence that there is even a large minority of customers who are willing to bear substantially higher costs for the sake of substantially better service.

That’s why we should never have deregulated the airline market! If it were still regulated, people wouldn’t be able to engage in this destructive race to the bottom. Bet you didn’t think of that, did you, you corporate shill?

Oh, indeed I did. Prior to federal deregulation in 1978, the Civil Aeronautics Board prioritized things that are not really valued by the — like keeping fares cheap to secondary markets, and keeping every existing airline in business. As a result, they tended to award new routes in order to help shore up financially weak firms, and resisted discounting, though eventually they did allow a limited amount.

Since airlines couldn’t compete on price, they instead competed on convenience and service. The result was a large number of planes flying around with many empty seats. By the early 1970s, capacity use dipped under 50 percent.

Obviously, if you were flying, this was a very nice time to be doing it. With all those empty seats, you didn’t have so much trouble getting a last-minute booking, or getting another flight out if you missed your plane. The middle seat was often empty, so you didn’t have to spend your time on board in a protracted cold war over precious armrest inches. And if they generally had empty seats, airlines would obviously not need to bump paying passengers in order to make room for crew.

On the other hand, this was necessarily expensive. So while air travel was better for those who could fly, fewer people could afford to fly as often as folks do now.

Deregulation was, however, an unambiguous Bad Thing for two groups of people: those who wish to fly shorter or less popular routes, and mid-level business travelers.

It was bad for people who fly short distances because it costs less in fuel to keep a plane in the air than to get it there, so short-haul flights are relatively expensive to operate, a difference that had been masked by the federal regulations.

It was bad for mid-level business travelers because their companies had to fly them places, but insisted on doing so at the lowest available price. If the lowest-possible price was for a comfy wide seat in a half-empty plane, companies would pay it. But if cattle class is available, many companies buy that instead.

But I read this article saying deregulation hadn’t even obviously caused ticket prices to decline. Are you sure?

Yeah, I read the same article, last week in New York magazine. It says: “This shift did little to nothing to make airfare more affordable in the long term. The cost of flying was actually declining at a faster rate before deregulation than it has since, according to a 2007 study in the Journal of the Transportation Research Forum.” I have also read that 2007 study.

The paper actually makes multiple arguments. One is that analysts are overestimating the benefits of deregulation for technical reasons we will leave aside the interests of keeping readers engaged. Another is that deregulation dispersed fares, with premium passengers (last-minute travelers and those on certain routes) paying more, and discount economy passengers paying less, so that the average hasn’t really declined any faster than it was doing before.

I think there are some problems with this argument; for one thing, prices tend to decline relatively quickly in young markets, and then level off, so the fact that they continued to fall is actually a point in deregulation’s favor. But I don’t think it’s contested that fare dispersion has been a major effect of deregulation.

However, if fares are more dispersed, that tells us that we now have a broader range available: higher fares, yes, but also lower fares. And those lower fares mean that air travel is now within the financial reach of some folks who were previously frozen out.

To the extent that deregulation has contributed to today’s crowded flights, it is necessarily what has also allowed fares to decline. Most of the cost of a flight is the fixed cost of buying, staffing, and getting a plane into the air; the marginal cost of each additional passenger is relatively trivial. Crowding lets us share the cost of getting the plane in the air over more travelers, making it cheaper for each individual. And in general, this is a good thing: It is both economic and environmental madness to strive toward less utilization of limited airline space.

Of course I don’t want planes to fly around empty! But why can’t we have a better regulatory regime that helps us utilize space efficiently without treating passengers like cattle?

Most of the unpleasantness of modern air travel is due to the fullness of planes. Airline food was never good and never going to be, and standing around at the baggage carousel certainly wasn’t much fun. What people really hate is trying to find a seat in a crowded waiting area, running out of room in the overhead bin, cramming into a tiny seat with no legroom, standing in line for the bathroom, getting bumped from an oversold flight. In other words, what they hate is the fact that there are so many darn people on the plane. (Flights’ capacity use hovers in the mid-80s these days.)

Don’t get me wrong: it’s absolutely possible that we could have had a better regulatory regime than the one that prevailed from the 1930s to the late 1970s. (Electricity regulation, for example, has gotten much more efficient since that time, without anyone saying “Whee! Free-form jazz odyssey in the power market!”) If you imagine a counterfactual in which airline regulation evolved to be more market-friendly and efficient, then you should discount the benefits of the 1978 deregulation accordingly.

But notice what that wouldn’t fix: The problems we hate about air travel. Because more efficient regulation would have been regulation that delivered the same capacity use we see now, or maybe even higher. Airlines don’t cram in seats and oversell flights because they are sadists. They do it because that’s how they maximize the number of passengers in that limited space.

Even the much-maligned overbooking helps us use planes as efficiently as possible, because people do miss flights. If airlines didn’t overbook, their capacity use would be lower, we’d waste fuel flying more empty seats around, and we’d all have to pay a little more for tickets.

Or maybe airlines could just, I dunno, take a little less profit?

The industry is fiercely competitive. United’s profit margin in the most recent year was 6.2 percent, which is not exactly the level you’d expect from unfettered price gouging. And at that, it has to offset the bad years, like 2001 or 2009, when airlines bleed green in life-threatening amounts.

Are you really going to stand up and defend United? That guy was bleeding.

Oh, heck, I’m not defending United. (Though I will note that it was the cops, not United, who made him bleed. It’s a little odd that our ire has been focused on the company.) United made two really dumb mistakes. First, it let passengers board before the bumping began. That was stupid. It’s easy to keep someone off a plane, and hard to remove them once they’re there.

Then the airline compounded its error by trying to remove people by force. Now, United may have the legal right to do so. But that’s irrelevant. It would have been cheaper for staff members to just keep offering more cash until four people agreed to get off. At some price, they’d have found takers. They should have found that price instead of slowing down the boarding process and turning themselves into a viral disaster.

The market created this problem. The market could have solved it.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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New England Leaders Worry Trump and Strong Dollar Will Keep International Tourists Away

woodleywonderworks  / Flickr

New Hampshire tourism officials are concerned about President Trump’s impact on the state’s tourist season this summer. Pictured are tourists at Franconia Notch State Park in New Hampshire. woodleywonderworks / Flickr

Skift Take: Many destinations like New Hampshire are at the start of their main spring and summer travel seasons and aren’t backing down on marketing to international travelers while also proceeding with bated breath.

— Dan Peltier

New Hampshire tourism officials are closely watching political developments in the Trump administration and overseas as they prepare for the summer and fall travel seasons when they see most of their international visitors.

“I have a concern that we’re going to see a dip from our key markets, which would be the United Kingdom and Germany, but that has as much to do with their politics as it does with ours, with Brexit and the whole currency situation over there,” said Marti Mayne, who markets attractions for the Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce in northern New Hampshire.

She and others in the tourism business attended the New Hampshire Travel Council‘s annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism on Tuesday in Concord.

“It’s a little early to know what’s going to happen, but we’re concerned,” Mayne said.

Keynote speaker Mike Fullerton, a spokesman for Brand USA, the nation’s public-private partnership dedicated to promoting international travel to the U.S., said politics impacts travel. He said international travelers surveyed recently said that politics will have an impact on whether they’re going to visit the U.S.

Fullerton said, for example, there’s been “a lot of tough talk” about Mexico that has an impact there. He said new efforts would be made to reach potential tourists in Mexico. He said ad campaigns are tailored to each country, but that U.S. attractions, including New Hampshire ones, such as its beaches, still exist “no matter who’s in office.”

Republican President Donald Trump suspended new visas for people from six Muslim-majority countries and halted the U.S. refugee program, citing safety concerns. Federal judges have blocked those actions. He also vowed during the presidential campaign to erect a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

New England has seen an uptick in international visitors in recent years. International growth is outpacing domestic growth in the region, said Victoria Cimino, director of new Hampshire’s Division of Travel and Tourism Development. She said New England received an estimated 2.1 million international visitors in 2015 who spent about $2.1 billion.

She said the United Kingdom and Canada continue to be strong markets in New Hampshire, as are Germany, France, Italy, Ireland and Japan. She said Australia and New Zealand are emerging markets. The allure of the New England region is the draw.

“We always keep an eye on the United States and the perception of the United States as a welcoming travel destination,” Cimino said. “We have zero intention of pulling back on our international marketing effort. We will maintain the work that we do to continue to promote New Hampshire as a hospitable, welcoming place to visit.”

This article was written by Kathy McCormack from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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